Recording an EP: bass guitar

Once the drums and basic acoustic/electric guitar parts were down, it was time to start adding some bass. In addition to being the studio engineer and producer for the EP, Alex recorded all the bass guitar parts on the record. I first met him when he auditioned for a covers band that I was in at the time. He was the first of five or so bass players we heard on a single day, and within a few minutes of hearing him play, we knew he was going to get the gig! We parted ways a few years after that, when we both had to leave that band for different reasons. It’s been great to re-establish contact through our work together on this record.

How did you approach recording the bass parts? We ended up going for the simple approach of recording the bass via direct input (often abbreviated to “DI”) i.e., the raw bass output was taken straight into the recording software with no amplifier or speaker in the signal chain. As well as its simplicity, this approach has the advantage of perfect reproducibility of the bass sound if we decided to re-record something at a later time. All of the tone shaping for the bass sound was done using digital signal processing (DSP) software, including a Neve console simulator (Neve is a legendary manufacturer of iconic recording studio mixing desks).

Two different bass guitars were used for the EP. The first was a Music Man Sterling 5-string bass, associated with players such as Tim Commerford (Rage Against The Machine/Audioslave) and Justin Chancellor (Tool) who had a particular influence on Alex’s bass sound. The 5-string was used on Chasing Butterflies and Complications. The second was a Fender Jazz Bass that is a little unusual in that it is fitted with a Precision Bass pickup (and therefore has more of a P-Bass sound). This bass was strung with flatwound strings, which are associated with the thudding bass tone heard on many 1960s hit songs from Motown Records. When played with a guitar pick, flatwound strings produce a unique “clank” that can be heard on The Flood. The Jazz Bass was also used on Politic Blues (see video below) and In The Night.

Alex recording the bass part to Chasing Butterflies using his Music Man Sterling 5-string bass guitar
Alex recording the bass part to Chasing Butterflies using his Music Man Sterling 5-string

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